There’s a common saying among sustainability professionals that offers a great starting point for tackling your carbon footprint: Reduce what you can, offset what you can’t.
Catchy though it may be, this little phrase doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. So what can you reduce; what can’t you reduce; and when could you benefit most from carbon offsetting instead?
What’s The Difference Between Emissions Reduction and Offsetting?
All organizations and individuals aiming to minimize their contribution to climate change should first aim to cut their carbon emissions.
Scope 1 emissions are best tackled first since you have the most control over them. Scope 1 emissions are direct carbon emissions from sources that you own or control. This includes manufacturing and process emissions, onsite fuel combustion and emissions from company vehicles.
Cutting Scope 1 emissions can be achieved by improving efficiency in factories, processing plants and other business-related premises, reducing your fleet travel mileage or switching to cleaner vehicles.
Next up are Scope 2 emissions. These are indirect emissions from the generation of energy that your organization buys and uses, such as electricity, heat or steam.
These emissions can be reduced by improving energy efficiency in offices, warehouses and other buildings or by switching to renewable energy – either generated onsite or bought from a green energy supplier.
All of these methods of emissions reduction take place on your own premises or within your vehicle fleet and they largely benefit you by reducing your liability for carbon taxes and, potentially, by cutting your energy bills.
Offsetting, on the other hand, can occur anywhere in the world. Carbon offsets can be generated in any community, in any country, and may offer co-benefits to the host community, region or country.
Carbon offsets avoid or reduce greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere on your behalf, so you don’t see a reduction on your sites but you may still reduce your liability for carbon duties.
It’s often much more cost-effective to buy carbon offsets than to implement carbon reduction schemes within your business operations, especially if you are already a highly efficient organization.
What Types of Carbon Can’t be Reduced?
Generally speaking, Scope 3 carbon emissions are the hardest to reduce.
Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions from sources outside your direct control. This includes employee commuting and business travel, water consumption, waste disposal, purchased goods and services, and the use and end-of-life treatment of products you sell.
It may be possible to cut Scope 3 emissions to some extent through rigorous supply chain management, employee travel plans and the sustainable life cycle design of your products and services, for example.
Inevitably, however, some emissions will remain over which you have little or no control. This is where carbon offsetting can be most useful.
What Are The Benefits of Buying Carbon Offsets?
Each carbon offset can be set against one metric ton of carbon equivalent emissions. While you’re reducing your carbon footprint as much as you can, investing in carbon offset projects helps you to neutralize the remainder at the lowest cost.
As well as enabling you to hit your CSR goals, choosing the right carbon offset projects can demonstrate your sustainability credentials to your customers, investors and other stakeholders.
Alongside carbon emissions reduction, progressive carbon offsets deliver a wide variety of measurable environmental, social and economic benefits such as safe water, clean air, ecosystem restoration, and wildlife and habitat protection.
Choosing a Great Progressive Carbon Offset Provider
Not all carbon offset projects provide the same benefits. Your investment in a NativeEnergy HelpBuild project will facilitate a project that would otherwise not have happened, and is guaranteed to provide genuine carbon savings verified by third parties.
Supporting progressive carbon offsets gives you a great sustainability story to share with your stakeholders as well as helping you hit corporate sustainability goals – something that cutting your emissions alone can’t do.